Happy New Year! It's that time (as of now!) for the UK, and since the Slashdot backend operates in Greenwich Mean Time, that seems as good a reason as any to welcome 2012 now instead of local midnight for any of the various U.S. time zones. Everyone has a different take on how to rank the events of the last year; read on below for a few notes on some of the goings on of the past 31,536,000 seconds (give or take). The list is pretty arbitrary, drawn from the thousand-ish stories that hit the Slashdot page in that time; please say in the comments what news hit you the hardest this year.
Politics and all that:
Events in the Middle East dominated much of the news, including in particular the ways that governments have been tracking (and sometimes imprisoning or killing) opponents; California-based Blue Coat flatly denied selling equipment to Syria to help that sort of tracking before 'fessing up to it. (And in the U.S., the Occupy movement set about occupying bits of various cities, drawing both admiration and scorn.)
Related: The nuttiness surrounding Wikileaks continues.
Then there's the still unfinished story of SOPA; at least in some cases, speaking loudly seems to've caused businesses to change their public stances as defenders of the law as proposed; could this be called washing SOPA out with mouth?
On the tech front:
Donald Knuth published the 4th volume (or at least the first installment of it) of his ambitious Art of Computer Programming.
Netflix's management decided to couple a change that many customers thought was a stupid rate increase with what many people (customers or not) felt was a stupid name change; the company at least agreed on the name change, and reverted it.
HP seemed to do an interesting dance, both by shaking up its management structure , then announcing it was considering a spin-off of its PC hardware business before canceling that maneuver. HP sent a different but similarly mixed set of messages with a fire sale on its WebOS tablets (to the disappointment of those who praised and wished more success to WebOS).
Nokia also did some shaking in place. It's been a rough year for phone junkies on the whole, with Blackberry outages and privacy debacles both intentional and accidental from RIM, and no joy for those who'd expected iPhone 5, along with a handful of security issues for Android phones made it a rough year for phone junkies.
Meanwhile, the Linux kernel reached the magical number 3.0, and then 3.1 even though Mr. Linux himself, true to form, downplayed the leap from 2.x as basically just a number. Notably, the kernel suffered a persistent power-use regression, but also (Yay!) a fix.
On the GUI front, Gnome3 and Ubuntu's Unity generated lots of excitement, particularly from those who dislike the changes they bring. Forks and workarounds ensued — open source abides. We've seen also quite a bit this year about the Raspberry Pi, IMO the most exciting hardware news stuff of the year.
Questions of the stars:
Speaking of the Raspberry Pi, we were glad to have had the chance this year to ask questions of Eben Upton, as well as of William Shatner and Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, among many others. (And though it's sad, must also note rejections to our requests to interview Steven Hawking, Tom Lehrer, Freeman Dyson a distinguished list, at least.)
Several of the biggest names in technology will sadly no longer be around for the years to come. After years of uncertain health and swirling rumors, Steve Jobs succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Less known outside tech circles, both John McCarthy and Dennis Ritchie died as well, both leaving rich legacies of software and inspiration. For all that he thrived on being a bad penny to both sides of the political spectrum, Christopher Hitchens, too, will be missed. On the other side of the "world changing" coin, this year also brought the end for Usama Bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, and North Korea's not-particularly-dear leader Kim Jong Il.
A different kind of ending: after a few years of life support, 2011 witnessed (with CmdrTaco's help) the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle. Everyone who had a chance to see a Shuttle launch will have a great story to tell their children.
Whatever the eventual fate of the other players in the phone world, 2012 will probably mean the end of the road for Symbian phones.
It's time for a reality check on the space hotel that was predicted for 2012; I'd place my bet against. Less happily, the continuing push for surveillance and tracking means I wouldn't bet against the projected nationwide trials in the coming year of face-recognition and tracking software from the FBI.
Finally: the end is near. That is, the actual end of the world (versus this recent contender), as predicted by the Mayans, as interpreted by various non-Mayans, and massaged to give us a few more years (or at least a few more months). Or, you can choose to rotate your tinfoil hat one quarter turn clockwise and take NASA's word for it — whatever the fate of humanity, Earth itself will probably keep right on going; we hope you'll stick around for the rest of the story — we're still waiting for The HURD